Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Primer to Driving in Sicily: Picking Up Your Car from the Catania Airport

Last summer, Nick and I landed in the Catania airport for the first time in our travels.  It is a medium-sized airport that we found pretty easy to navigate.  There is a beautiful new terminal, and a quite serviceable old terminal.  However, when you look for the car rental desks inside the airport, no luck.  To find the car rental office you need to walk to the end of the old terminal, walk outside past the bus stops and you will see a little white trailer on your left across the road.  That is the car rental office.  The nice thing about picking up your car in Catania is that the parking lot is directly behind the car rental office.  No long walk, no searching for your car in a huge parking lot.  It was as easy as pie!  Or cosa facile.  

Getting out of the airport was easy as well.  Good signage, clear lanes - easy.  Then you hit Catania.  Oh. My. God.

Catania is a town that Sicilians love to hate.  I heard all kinds of negatives and slanders about Catania from Sicilians all over the island.  However, we found that Catania has its own beauty, albeit a crumbling beauty.  The nightlife is exciting and there is a vibrancy amongst its people that we really appreciated.  Yet just around the corner in Acireale you can find traditional Sicily.

Set up for a midnight jazz concert in Catania

An Acireale fisherman heading out into the bay just as his father, grandfather,
and great grandfather did. 

The roads in Catania are wide for the most part, and easy to drive, with three exceptions:

  1. There are one way streets everywhere.  
  2. Both streets and lanes merge without warning.
  3. The drivers in Catania are CRAZY.
What this means is that you have to keep your eyes open all the time.  You can't let your attention wander ever.  Let me repeat that.  You cannot let your attention wander ever!  And it is extremely helpful to have a navigator to help you figure out where you are going as you drive.  Even with a GPS, it was necessary to have Nick giving me clearer directions because the GPS is not always completely clear.  Because of this, Nick and I have no pictures of driving in Catania to share on the blog as we were too busy just driving to get the camera out.

I wish I could say that getting out of Catania was as easy as Palermo (which is not particularly easy) but it is not.  There are several autostrada to choose from and if you find yourself on the wrong one, you could be heading towards a part of the island that you had no intention of visiting.  

If you take the Viale Mediterraneo you will get to autostrada E45 also known as A18.  North takes you up towards Taormina and Messina and south takes you towards Siracusa (Syracuse) as far as Rosolini.  

To get to the autostrada that will take you west through the centre of the island, you will have to take E932 also known as A19.  This autostrada will take you west as far as Enna and then north to the E90 about halfway between Termini Imerese and Cefalu'.

The traffic as you either leave or enter Catania is busy and impatient.  Be prepared for people cutting in front of you, honking and waving their arms rudely.  Just take it all as part of the Sicilian experience!

Heading to a toll booth into Catania


  1. Brings back so many memories. In 2001 we arrived in Catania after crossing over from Messina. We skipped our hotel and decided to explore. We ended up being blocked by the stalls in the market and were terrified. Fortunately people were kind, and showed us a parking place. We enjoyed the market, and this year we stayed at a B&B 2 blocks from the incredible fish market. Older and wiser, we were thrilled with our three days in Catania, and were able to get around fairly well. Catania is a great city with no lack of things to do. The dining was incredible. Each day was a new adventure, and we enjoyed our stay so much, we returned for two more nights staying on the beach and I took a day trip to hike on Mt Etna. Una bella cita. 10 years of studying Italina via podcasts and CD's was a great help and talking to people was the highlight of our 10th trip to Italy. This time we spend 3 weeks in Sicily.

    1. Glad it brought back good memories! I like Catania too and want to spend more time there. Perhaps next summer. If you are ever near Cianciana in the summer, leave me a comment - that's where we will be spending our summers from now on!

  2. Me too! I just want to spend more time there!


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